I have been reading loads of articles on letting go of expectations in regards to relationships. And I have come to the conclusion that I am not capable of this.
Logically, I believe in everything I have read. Letting go of the need to box up a relationship and give it a name. Letting go of trying to label something and put a pretty bow on it to give oneself the illusion of safety and stability. I understand the concept and I believe that it is a very powerful one; the end game being to love freely and completely with your entire self without the expectation that someone ‘needs’ to love you back in the same way that you might love them.
Loving without the expectation that a so-called ‘relationship’ means a promise of forever.
Maybe loving without expectation is something that some people can do right out of the dating gate. Maybe some people learn how to do this with years of practice. I have tried, a few times now, and with absolute frustration I have realized that I cannot do this at this point in my life. I have been through so much trauma this past year, that I crave that perceived guarantee. Which, let’s be honest, is total bullshit because I know (better than most) that futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight and labels aren’t guarantees and pretty little relationship packages are not promises.
Love feels pretty terrifying right now.
I think that loving without expectation is one of the main tenants of polyamory. Being free to love whomever you love in whatever way that might be. Trusting yourself to give love and accept love. Trusting your partner (or partners) to treat you with respect and kindness as you navigate the ups and downs of multiple relationships. Understanding that there is no permanence in relationships just as there is no permanence in life.
A friend who is poly once told me that in a new poly relationship, everyone involved should go as slowly and mindfully as the slowest person involved. I was so completely traumatized by my one and only experience with polyamory that I am absolutely terrified of having any kind of relationship with anyone. I was literally bulldozed by two people who fell madly in love with each other and then kicked me to the curb.
The maddening thing is, being in a relationship is all that my aching heart wants. But, at least for now, I simply cannot do this without a fear and a terror that I will open up my heart (and it opens in a BIG way), and someone will look at me and say, “Hey, you just aren’t what I want. I do not choose you, I choose this other person. See ya!” I don’t want to be treated that way ever again.
I am currently completely frustrated with myself. I had to let go and say goodbye to a great guy this week. We were doing beautifully for about a month. I was letting go of the expectation that he needed to love me in the way that I loved him. I was learning to trust and believe that I could finally do it, let my heart free, let it out of its terrified space of hurt and fear. He was kind, supportive, nurturing, and SAFE. He was a safe person to love because he would never hurt me. He would never bail on me. I could feel my heart slowly healing.
But then we had this conversation during which he told me he wanted to “keep his options open” and if he wanted to have sex with someone else he wanted to be able to do that without hurting my feelings.
I reacted like a deer in headlights, I nearly disassociated due to my trauma and PTSD. But I breathed through it and in that moment I realized that I simply could not give him that; even though I wanted to, SO MUCH. My heart cracked and broke again and I said goodbye to someone who didn’t want the same thing I did. I could not go through the horror of being left by someone again. I retreated to my space of hurt, longing, rejection, abandonment, and anxiety. I am still living there to some degree. I am trying to feel my feelings without letting them run rampant and seize control. I am getting better at this but it can still feel pretty scary.
But what is it that I really want? A lie? A false sense of security and a sense of safety that isn’t even real? My brain wants that. My heart has a completely different idea. I know now that I can love someone without an expectation that they will love me back. I can be with someone and open up my heart to them without that need for their love to match my own. But here is the catch: I cannot do this in a so-called ‘open relationship’. The minute he dropped that bomb, I knew I was incapable of doing what I had slowly begun to do. Love without expectation. Because, in my limited experience with open relationships, people leave you. They smash your heart and walk away without a backward glance. Maybe someday I will have healed enough to handle something like that if it happened again. But for now, it is just not possible. And the worst part?
I feel like a failure.
I think it is okay to expect certain things. I expect not to be treated like shit. I expect to be treated with care and compassion and kindness. I expect someone to be gentle with my heart and not stomp all over it. These things are non negotiable needs for me, and at this point in my healing, I have to create boundaries that protect them. Which meant saying goodbye to someone I love very, very much. And isn’t that a brave thing to do? To stay within my own integrity and know my own limits and set my own boundaries? I am hurting a lot right now, but that hurt will fade with time. I won’t feel this way forever. Because forever is an illusion and labeling something as ‘exclusive’ or ‘non-exclusive’ means absolutely nothing.
But for now, until the parts of me that fear abandonment heal, I am trying to accept that I need to feel safe within the context of a lie.